GENEVA (22 October 2015) – In an open statement published today, a group of United Nations human rights experts have expressed their strong support for the efforts by governments in Latin America and the Caribbean to agree on a regional legal instrument on rights of access to information, participation, and justice in environmental matters.

“Sustainable development and human rights are interrelated,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, John Knox, as 20 country members of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), representing more than 500 million people, prepare for the next round of negotiations from 27-29 October in Panama City.

“Rights of access to information, participation, and justice are at the fulcrum of the relationship,” Mr. Knox said on behalf of the group of UN experts. “When the people most affected by environment and development policies, including indigenous peoples and women, who are often the primary caregivers in the family, can exercise their human rights to information, participation, and remedy, then the policies are most responsive, fair and effective.”

“This negotiation is one of the most important steps ever taken to protect and promote environmental democracy at the international level,” he stressed; “and it will provide a model for other regions and countries.”

In their open statement, the experts noted that a strong regional instrument on access rights will further enhance robust domestic laws implementing multilateral environmental agreements and domestic policies in other areas, including climate change, chemicals and waste management, and biological diversity.

However, they warned that, while most of the countries have expressed their intention to conclude a legally binding instrument, they have not yet adopted a formal decision on the question.

“We urge the negotiators to adopt a treaty or other binding legal instrument as the best way to promote the effective implementation of access rights and sustainable development and to ensure that the instrument strengthens capacities in public institutions and in civil society,” Mr. Knox said.

The 20 countries engaged in the negotiation are Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uruguay.

UN experts urge Latin America and the Caribbean to adopt trend-setting agreement on environmental democracy